PORTLAND, Ore. – When the Portland Timbers host LAFC on Saturday evening (10:30 pm ET | ESPN2 in US; TSN in Canada), it will have been seven months, four days, and six hours since their last regular-season home match. The Timbers will have played 13 road matches, including a record-setting road trip of 12 away matches from the start of the 2019 season, since then.
In that time Providence Park, Portland’s home venue and the beating heart of soccer in the Rose City, has undergone a major renovation, adding seats for more than 4,000 additional fans and transforming one of Major League Soccer’s most venerable stadiums.
Now, as Timbers fans return to Providence Park for the first time since last postseason’s run to the MLS Cup final, there will be a lot to take in. From big things like the new east side stands, to little things like a link to the history of the park contained on the new directional signage, here are 10 Things that everyone should look out for on Saturday.
The new face of Providence Park
Even as fans arrive at the stadium, the changes are apparent. Whether it is the “Onward Rose City” sign on the side of the new stand that greets fans as they step off the max, or the arcade formed where the new stand extends out over the sidewalk, the changes to Providence Park are apparent and impressive from the outside.
Reaching toward the heavens
Inside the stadium, the new east side stand looms over the pitch. With three levels, each at a sharper angle than the first to maximize the sightlines of the fans packing Providence Park, the new additions were inspired by the likes of Boca Juniors’ famous La Bombonera in Buenos Aires and other city-bound stadiums where building up, not out, was the only option.
4,000 more fans
The Timbers have sold out every regular-season match since joining MLS back in 2011 and had a waiting list of over 15,000 fans coming into 2019. Now, with more than 4,000 more seats added to the stadium, a sellout crowd of 25,218 promises a more raucous environment than ever.
For those lucky fans who have been able to snag a seat on the east side, each level of the new addition offers a distinctly different viewing experience. While the first level, Tanner Ridge, provides a comfortable viewing experience, the third – the Duracell Deck – is drastically different.
Looking down on the stadium from the highest seats in Providence Park while only marginally further back than the lower levels gives the sort of bird’s-eye view that most soccer-watchers can only dream of. Being able to turn around and get a sweeping view of the city is also a rather nice bonus.
Beyond simply providing seats for more fans to enjoy the matches, the new east side will certainly have an acoustic effect on matches as well. Where that side of the stadium was previously open to the city, the east side now encloses the stadium and the new roof curls out over the pitch, giving the roar of the crowd no escape, aided by the roof’s shape and metal construction.
Soccer City, USA
The seats on the Toyota Terrace, the second level of the new east side stand, are emblazoned with the acronym “SCUSA” – or as Timbers fans read it: “Soccer City, USA”. The people of Portland have long laid claim to that moniker, and while others might contest it, to Timbers fans there can be only one. It is a claim rooted in the history of their club, a history that can be seen in the bones of the stadium, and now writ large across its new face as well.
Another very noticeable upgrade: Providence Park’s video boards. Where Timbers fans were once limited to looking toward the south end of the stadium for the park’s lone big screen, there are now two. The video board at the south end has been replaced and another has been added in the northwest corner of the stadium, as well as a vertical display in the south east corner and numerous other LED upgrades throughout the grounds. In all, the Timbers have added almost 2,000 square feet of LEDs over the course of the renovation.
The stadium’s updates are not only noticeable from one’s seats; plenty of work has gone into revamping the stadium’s concourses. Included in the update are everything from a new coat of paint to adding phone-charging stations throughout the concourse, to updating the directional signage with handsome wood accents built from the benches taken out of Providence Park’s northwest corner during the stadium’s 2002 remodel.
A touch of tifo
An extra bit of class has been added to several of the entrances from the concourse to the North End – the general-admission section of the stadium occupied by the Timbers Army. Painted on the walls of the entrances are patterns paying homage to four of the most well-known tifos raised by the Timbers Army and the Rose City Riveters, the supporters group of the Portland Thorns.
Something to munch on
Finally, the Timbers have added a number of selections to the food options available at Providence Park. Hot Lips Pizza and Portland barbeque joint Podnah’s Pit have both been added to the lineup this year, alongside 17 other new dining destinations throughout the stadium and a host of signature dishes that should prove tempting to fans throughout.